Defra convenes industry taskforce on litter

10th April 2017

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Richard Poole

Retailers, coffee shops and food and drinks manufacturers have been invited to advise the government on the role packaging design could play in reducing litter.

The taskforce, to be chaired by the environment department (Defra), will look at design features such as the number of components in common items, such as detachable caps on plastic drinks bottles, takeaway meal bags, sandwich packs and confectionary. It will report later this year.

The taskforce is part of the government’s anti-littering strategy, launched today. Cleaning up litter cost local government £778m in 2015/16 and research for Defra found that 81% of people see litter as a problem in their area.

As well as working with retailers and manufacturers on improving packaging, the strategy includes measures on education and behaviour change; better infrastructure for disposal of litter; and tougher enforcement against people who drop rubbish, including raising fines from the current level of £50-£80. Defra published a consultation on enforcement alongside the strategy.

Membership of the taskforce has not been finalised, according to Martin Kersh, executive director of the Foodservice Packaging Association, which promotes the responsible manufacturing, sourcing, distribution, use and disposal of food packaging.

However, Coca-Cola announced that it would be participating. A spokesperson for Coca-Cola European Partners said: ‘We agree that much more needs to be done to tackle anti-social littering behaviours and we welcome the new approach outlined by Defra in this far-reaching strategy.

‘We are pleased to have been invited to join Defra’s new expert group to provide advice to the government on issues such as how best to increase the recovery of plastic drinks containers and reduce littering in the process.’

The announcement from Coca-Cola coincided with a demonstration by Greenpeace campaigners, who have installed a 2.5 tonne plastic sculpture on the doorstep of the firm’s head office in London (see image), in protest at the company’s role in ocean plastic pollution. The artwork features seabirds regurgitating plastic amid a family beach picnic.

Copyright: Greenpeace

Greenpeace accused Coca-Cola of not doing enough to reduce its plastic footprint. In a new report, it said Coca-Cola produced more than 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year, and that the company’s use of single-use plastic bottles was rising.

The report also found that Coca-Cola had failed to meet its own sustainability targets and was now restricting information it disclosed on its product packaging. Despite telling customers to recycle, globally the firm used an average of just 7% recycled content in its plastic bottles, according to the report.

Greenpeace has also scrutinised other soft drinks companies. In a report published in March, it described action by the top six global soft drinks brands, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Suntory, Danone, Dr Pepper Snapple and Nestlé on reducing ocean litter was ‘woeful’.


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